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UNC Student Receives Top Award at National Honors Research Conference

December 5, 2022

University of Northern Colorado honors student Madison Gremillion received national recognition for her research exploring the quality of conversations healthcare professionals have with patients receiving end-of-life care.  

Gremillion, a senior in UNC’s College of Natural and Health Sciences, Biological Sciences — Pre-health and Biomedical Sciences Concentration program, won the Sloane Prize for Undergraduate Research at the 57th annual National Collegiate Honors Conference (NCHC) in early November. Her project, titled “Comfort of Healthcare Professionals with End-of-Life Patient Communication: Exploring Comfort, Communication, and Education of Healthcare Professionals for End-of-Life Care,” placed first in the Biological Sciences category poster presentation.   

For her research project, Gremillion interviewed healthcare providers (HCPs) in end-of-life specialties, such as hospice and palliative care, as well as those in general healthcare settings. She wanted to identify why professionals in general healthcare settings may feel under-prepared to have end-of-life discussions with dying patients compared to HCPs who practice in end-of-life care specialties. She’s hoping her research can be used to provide areas of focus for the development of education material for HCPs in general healthcare.  

"Although I had hoped to have a great experience at the conference, I never expected to have the possibilities of my future opened,” Gremillion said. “It has given me the courage and confidence to pursue goals I never would have otherwise."  

 Gremillion’s research is part of her participation in the university’s Upper Division Honors Program, which provides students with opportunities to engage in various types of research. According to Loree Crow, executive director for Undergraduate Academic Engagement in UNC’s University Honors Program, the university has been sending students to NCHC for the past 10 years. This is the second time a UNC student has won a poster presentation, but just being chosen to participate is already a significant achievement.  

 "Only about 50% of students from honors programs around the country who submit to present at NCHC are accepted into the competition,” Crow said. “This experience is a great opportunity for our students, not only to gain experience presenting their research, but also getting to meet other top honors students from around the country and attend sessions that provide them with professional and academic development.”    

 Gremillion was one of two UNC students who attended this year’s conference. Shukuru Rushanika, a senior Biological Sciences — Pre-health and Biomedical Sciences Concentration major, presented in the Natural Sciences poster category with a project titled “Utilizing Nurr77 as a Surrogate Biomarker for CD8+ T-Cell Activation to Assess the Immunological Effects of Berberine and Exercise.” His research will provide insights into ways that the medical community can better combat many auto-immune disorders. His experimental project will shed more light on the metabolic behavior of certain T-cells, important to the body’s immune response, when engaged in strenuous activity. Rushanika is a member of both UNC’s Upper Division Honors and the Ronald E. McNair Research Scholars programs.  

 “I really enjoyed getting to see what other research projects are being conducted around the country by fellow honor students,” Rushanika said. “Networking with students, staff, and directors made the experiences fun. I learned something new from each person I spoke with.”  

 The NCHC is run by the National Collegiate Honors Council, an organization designed to support and promote undergraduate honors education throughout the United States. According to Crow, the organization provides standards and best practices, along with lots of idea sharing, and by bringing together faculty, directors and students from all honors programs, develops a space for innovation in honors curriculum and program design. 

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